2016 dream/disaster scenarios for LSU
It’s a given that LSU’s dream scenario for each of the past five seasons was the same: Become a complete enough team to get past Alabama and make the national championship postseason (the BCS or current playoff format).
That hasn’t changed this year.
Here are three dream scenarios that would lead the Tigers to their first appearance in the college football championship sweepstakes since 2011 and, ideally, to their first title since 2007.
We’ll follow that with three nightmare scenarios that would derail the season and possibly end the career of one Les Miles.
Leonard Fournette has a Heisman Trophy season: Fournette put up Heisman-type numbers last year (an LSU single-season recordd of 1,953 rushing yards), but he was stopped by Alabama and his postseason awards ambition were also derailed. The lesson: Putting up numbers isn’t enough. To win, Fournette will likely be required to lift his team to the height of its potential. That means a big game in a win over Alabama. Put up the same numbers as last year, plus beat Alabama, and Fournette could become LSU’s first Heisman winner since Billy Cannon.
Brandon Harris finds his game: Brandon Harris’ first year as a starter compared pretty evenly to Zach Mettenberger’s. Harris threw for 2,165 yards with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions last season. Mettenberger’s numbers were 2,609, 12 and 7 in 2012.
Here’s the thing: Mettenberger’s second season resulted in a 3,000-yard passing year and 22 touchdowns. If Harris can be anywhere near that good, the Tigers could have an unstoppable offense with Fournette already making defenses stack up against the run. With two proven receivers in Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, a breakout year could come from Harris and if it does, watch out.
Dave Aranda’s defense dominates: The first-year defensive coordinator switched LSU to a 3-4 base in the spring. If that experiment works and Aranda pushes the right buttons, the Tigers could have a championship level defense.
The Tigers struggle early: If LSU struggles early, the wolves will be back at Miles’ door and likely stay there, even if the Tigers get back to winning, until Alabama week. If the sideshow of the Miles hotseat returns, that could prove to be distracting to the Tigers.
The offense remains one-dimensional: The complaints since Miles won his national championship have been that the Tigers have been a mediocre to bad passing team that good defenses can shut down. What if Harris never comes around and the Tigers don’t put up better numbers than last year? A one-dimensional offense is not likely to beat Nick Saban and Alabama.
Aranda’s defense can’t adjust: Aranda has been one of the most successful defensive coordinators in college football in recent years. But if a defense that has had three coordinators in as many years and has never played a 3-4 base in the Miles era struggles with the transition, it could be a long year.